Don’t Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water!

“Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” If you are a new teacher, you may have already heard veteran teachers or others in general conversation talk about how much of “what worked” has been thrown out with new initiatives, programs, curriculum, or possibly even laws. Also, as a new teacher, you will become quite adjusted to this manner of dialogue…in staff meetings, in PLC’s, in other department and team meetings, in the lounge, on social media, before school, after school and even when you run into colleagues in public. Believe me, you will. All of the time.

Here’s the inside secret…get your pen and paper ready…write this down:

Your colleagues are right…about almost all of it.

I will go deeper into this topic soon, but I read an article yesterday on CNN’s website about “parenting.” I am not a literary critic. I am a professional with 16 years experience…15 years of surviving and thriving in a public school classroom. I would not take back one day I had with my wonderful kids–not. one. day. With that said, I will briefly share my opinion of the article and why it connects to education and even your classroom.

This article spoke of how the authoritative way of parenting is no longer good for our kids. No disrespect to the well-meaning author, but I froze with a scowl after reading the title and introductory paragraph. I paused and calmly told myself to read with an open mind. After the reading the article, I read it from an educator’s perspective. Here are my thoughts–the reason why our children are struggling with discipline is a lack of authoritative reasoning and care. Today, not all, but many adults want to be the child’s friend.

In my experience as a teacher, most of my students did not want an friend or a “contract’…they craved an authority figure they could depend on. On the first day of school, one the first things I tell my students is “I am your teacher, I am not your friend.” Yes, I said it and I will say it again, ” I am your teacher, I am not your friend.” They love it…and they respect it…even middle school. You know what else? It creates a safe place for them. They feel free to be a child. When they receive consequences for misbehaving, they understand. Natural consequences have their place of course…that is life…but they need authoritative consequences because well, that is life too. If they rob a bank, the authoritative consequence–they will be arrested, tried for a felony, and imprisoned. Hang out with the wrong crowd, drink heavily then drive down the highway and kill several people? Natural consequence of the night? A horrendous hangover, guilt, soreness from the crash and no recollection of the evening. Authoritative consequence–arrest, interrogation, trial, conviction for manslaughter of innocent people, then prison with a daily dose of sober, extreme remorse.

I am all for allowing students to find their voice. Vote, speak up, and speak out. In fact, I encourage/ed it in my classroom. However, they need to know as an authority in that classroom, I don’t desire power– I desire for them to reach their potential in my class, in this year. However, if they violate the grounds I have presented to them and given them ownership of, there isn’t a “go to self-timeout” and hope you begin to understand after 7 times. The reality is, your behavior is affecting 25 other students– and myself along with the “authority” in the building, have no choice but to have you removed and sent to another faction of the building that can help you make better choices. As they show maturity, they will earn more responsibility. The root of TRUE authority is LOVE and servitude, not power. It is our job to teach them the difference so they become strong, caring, thinking, productive members of society.

When we see television shows where young, troubled students are taken to prisons and camps to be “scared straight,” it’s not usually because there was an authority figure that stayed on them and guided them (some situations vary). Somewhere, a parent or guardian let the child have too much say so, too much “wiggle” room. At some point, the child thought they were the authority. Children and teens are developing. They are not ready to call all of the shots and become democratic in all of their choices. Yes, it is a democracy…but they are children. They do have a voice, yes! They are critical members of our society. In my opinion, the most critical. Look here–we adults are still figuring this all out our ages! They will learn many consequences on their own, believe it ,but understand there are heavy consequences, and some are even life-threatening. It’s real in these streets, honey.

Lastly, as I will address in yet another blog ( I am so excited), as society has floated from community to the cloud of individualism, this doesn’t mean we need to float to that cloud too. Community is vital for us humans. Even the beloved animal kingdom thrives in packs and flocks. We need to prepare our students for where society is headed, definitely. That is part of our jobs, but create a community. Perpetual individualism has isolated so many and has left so many feeling so alone, confused, and misunderstood. Your classroom may be the closest thing to a stable family many of your students will have.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! In education, you will see many articles about parenting, child development, teaching, education laws, research (which I love but can be biased too) strategies, etc. Some say the “old” way is not effective or is not conducive. I’m Not saying we should continue giving out worksheet packets from 2011 for then next 20 years. That’s bad teaching, but hold your common sense. You will know what is best for your students. Try new strategies and approaches, but make sure you have a strong foundation to put them into.

Keep the “baby”– nurture it, feed it, and guard it. Without it, there is no hope for the educational future.

–The Educator, M.Ed.

©2018

P.S.–

Some of the most compassionate and respectful students I ever had, had authoritative parents who “ruled” with discipline, common sense and love.

Here is the link for the CNN article (there are a few good points):

https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/13/health/consequence-contract-parenting-strauss/index.html